We recently caught up with Steve Tingle, Chairman of Weymouth FC Walking Football Team to learn more about the sport and Steve’s recent taste of representing Dorset.
Can you introduce us to walking football?
The rules of the game are designed to maximise player safety and avoid unnecessary injuries. The rules are no running on or off the ball, no heading of the ball, no playing the ball when you’re on the ground, no tackling from behind or from the side and no ball above head height.
The game is played in various age groups; 50 plus, 60 plus, 65 plus, 70 plus and 75 plus.
The sport is growing rapidly in the UK, there are currently 4 federations in England, each offering competition at international level. Teams are now competing home and abroad as the game gains pace and there’s talk that the FA wants to see the sport become professional within 5 years.
How did you get into walking football?
I got into it in my late 50’s. I was on business in Oxford and I saw a poster for walking football and wondered what it was all about and I decided to find out. I went online and found the Weymouth team.
My first session was May 2015 and I think the team began in 2013. Some of the fellas that were playing had played to a good standard which helps. I’ve always loved football and rarely say no if asked to join in! 7 years on I’m now the Chairman of the club.
I’m originally from Newcastle and moved down south in the 70’s before eventually settling in Weymouth. I used to go to work, come home and didn’t really see anybody. For me joining the walking football team has become a great way to meet people and forge new friendships.
How did the link with Weymouth FC come about?
Some of our players are Weymouth supporters and follow the Terras home and away. One of our team, Paul Whalley, approached the club to ask if they had any old kit we could borrow as we had agreed to join the newly formed Dorset FA County Walking Football League. Weymouth kindly gave us an old set of kit and added us onto their club insurance to satisfy the FA needs. In our eyes we are affiliated to Weymouth FC and wear the club badge with pride.
We maintain our own finances and undertake our own organisation as the Weymouth Walking Football Club. We have funded the footballs, first aid kits, bibs, sports bags, flat cones etc which we use weekly as required. In addition to covering a number of social events and fun challenges, we have also replaced the old Weymouth kit with 2 sets of kit. We now have a claret and blue set, plus the 2018-2020 style sky blue with claret trim.
What competitions do you play in?
A few years ago Dorset County FA invited all clubs in Dorset to a meeting to set up a league. 10 clubs attended the meeting and the Dorset FA Walking Football League began with 5 clubs.
We now play in a tournament fashion where each club is asked to host a tournament during one calendar month each season. Each age group will have their own tournament and games are currently played as 7 a-side. All points in each tournament are added to the points from the previous tournaments and whoever gets the most points at the end of the season wins their league. All games are outdoors and we play our home games at Redlands.
You recently played for the Dorset League in a national competition, how was that?
It was a fabulous experience! Now that I’ve tasted football at that level, I want more of it! The tournament was great, we learnt a lot and the camaraderie between the teams was superb!
We represented the Dorset League against other associations from around England and Wales in a WFAL tournament held at Leek Town FC. Dorset fielded a team in 3 of the 4 age categories, we competed in the 50+, 60+ and 70+ age groups.
We won the 50+ age competition, with a team made up entirely of Weymouth and Dorchester players, beating Greater Manchester WFA, a team that included one of the England goalkeepers, plus a few other players who had North West Regional, or England squad experience.
The 60+ team performed incredibly well against Northern Premier WFL, Greater Manchester WFA and Essex WFA. The opposition all fielded international players from amongst the 4 Federations, so the experience we gained was immense.
The 70+ Team were runners up from their round robin tournament, losing to Greater Manchester and defeating Wales WFF 6-1.
What would you say to anyone thinking about giving walking football a go?
Come and join us, we’re always looking for more players and new friends!
As a team we must evolve for a number of reasons: People occasionally get injured, or get ill and it takes longer to recover as we get older. Sometimes we lose squad members for reasons men don’t like to talk about, such as prostate cancer. Our players and the opposition are always improving and there’s the social side away from the Monday night kick about too. Everyone has made new friends and even the wives have commented on how much better life has become for them, as we get out from under their feet and meet up with our own mates forged through football.
We’re always looking for players in every age group, especially men reaching 50+ to join up and make the group stronger for the future of the club.
Training is a Monday night and we’ve had to extend training times recently to make sure everyone gets a chance to play. Come and join us, it’s great fun and you’ll make some good mates too.
You can contact Steve via email: email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org.
The team’s website is here – https:www.weymouthwalkingfootball.co.uk